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Friday, November 28, 2014

Najib, redeem thyself

The Umno President must address the crucial issues
COMMENT
najid_umno_300So we’ve got a taste of what our Prime Minister has become capable of after about five years at the helm. A lot of bluster and rhetoric, a marked shift towards the right in deference to Mahathir Mohamed, and very little policy to speak of.
In fact, one would not be remiss to say that aside from the stunning backtracking on his promise to repeal the Sedition Act, there was zero policy in his speech at the Umno general assembly yesterday. Let’s remind ourselves that mainstream newspapers used to refer to the Umno presidential address as his Policy Speech. Or do they still do so?
Najib answered none of the pressing concerns that hang over the head of the Malay community, and a failure to do so will only whittle away at what remains of his already tenuous support. So, Prime Minister, here’s the cheat sheet on exactly what you need to address in your closing speech at the Umno general assembly to redeem yourself.
The Economy
Much has been written about the failing state of the Malaysian economy, and things are only set to get worse next year with the implementation of the GST and the removal of fuel subsidies on RON95. Despite the rosy outlook of a short rise in inflation put out by government think tanks, the reality is that this move pushes Malaysia dangerously close to stagflation, similar to what has happened to Japan.
Najib would do well to tell us what safety nets have been put in place to prevent the poverty level from rising, as the Malay population makes up the majority of Malaysians earning below RM2,000 a month, barely enough to survive in major cities like Kuala Lumpur, where RM50 a day hardly covers three meals, parking and fuel costs.
The Education System
Enough about vernacular education. What Najib should address is our national education system, which has been bludgeoned by brickbats for the past couple of years, what with the constant flip-flopping over whether Maths and Science should be taught in English and what not. The concern now is how we can improve the broken education system to finally produce employable graduates.
We’ve written before on how the Malaysian government was beginning to mimic elements of the Nordic education systems, which encourage individual growth to produce creative graduates with soft skills like communication and leadership. Perhaps it is time to look closer into that system and see what in it can mend what we have.
Employment
Of course, we all know that there are many unemployed and unemployable graduates for a great number of reasons, not the least of which is the sorry state of our current education system.
But assuming that something is finally done to improve the system so that it reaches a certain acceptable level, what then? Employment will become an even bigger headache as the market will be flush with employable graduates all seeking out well-paying jobs to justify the efforts they’ve put into mastering a craft. The already bloated civil service can no longer afford to keep the Malay population afloat, and it is well-past time to look into ways to grow the economic option available to the Malay community.
Perhaps, just perhaps, Najib could finally look at creating Bumiputera businesses that are more than just shell companies. Having a proper ecosystem of Bumi-owned businesses would not only provide more employment opportunities but also create an environment for meritocratic career advancement through a proper organizational structure that allows workers to refine their talents and make the case for promotion.
Social Ills
Umno Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin touched on the myriad social ills that plague the Malay community, including “baby dumping, incest and street crime” as well as drug abuse. Najib must attempt to address these issues immediately to continue to uphold the pride of the Malay people, and one starting point is to look into the current situation in government housing.
The current arrangement sees large families or family groups crushed in together in inadequate lodgings, creating a perfect breeding ground for the social ills described by Khairy. A solution must be found in terms of affordable or available lodgings for these families, which are placed in a stifling environment that bodes ill for the children and their futures.
We could go on about the things Najib could and should address in his speech. But as a primer, he must address these issues to prove that he has ideas and policies that will reinvigorate and uplift the community, and not just give us empty rhetoric that doesn’t feed the hungry or protect the poor. After all, the platform he commands, as head of Malaysia’s largest political party representing it’s largest ethnic community, is the perfect one from which he can begin to tackle these issues.
As the head of Umno, the champion of the Malay community, Najib must begin to truly address the pressing concerns holding the Malays back or let down their trust in him.

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